Young adults once again leav­ing nest

Small Texas provider com­petes by know­ing mar­ket, pres­i­dent says.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - gdinges@states­man.com

With the econ­omy im­prov­ing and their job­less rate fall­ing, more young amer­i­can adults are leav­ing their par­ents’ homes and giv­ing the hous­ing mar­ket a boost.

By Gary Dinges

Com­pet­ing with in­dus­try giants, Grande Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is the lit­tle ca­ble provider that could.

The grow­ing San Mar­cos­based com­pany of­fers ca­ble TV, In­ter­net and phone ser­vice to more than 140,000 cus­tomers in six Texas mar­kets, in­clud­ing parts of the Austin area, where it goes head-to­head with Time Warner Ca­ble, the na­tion’s fourth largest provider with 12.5 mil­lion sub­scribers as of June, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Ca­ble & Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions As­so­ci­a­tion.

Grande is in ex­pan­sion mode, pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager Matt Murphy says, and will soon be avail­able in more Cen­tral Texas neigh­bor­hoods. The com­pany has also rolled out sev­eral new prod­ucts in re­cent months, with more on the way. The Amer­i­can-States­man caught up with Murphy re­cently to talk about Grande’s evo­lu­tion. Amer­i­can-States­man: How did you get your start in the busi­ness?

Matt Murphy: I started my ca­reer in the fi­nance world — first with in­vest­ment bank­ing and then in pri­vate eq­uity, both with a fo­cus in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and, specif­i­cally, the ca­ble in­dus­try. I’ve al­ways been at­tracted to the fast pace and chang­ing tech­nol­ogy of the in­dus­try and made the move to strate­gic man­age­ment and own­er­ship about 10 years ago. I really en­joy be­ing part of a team that cre­ates and ex­e­cutes bold plans. It is in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing and the key to build­ing ex­cite­ment and ca­ma­raderie across the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion. How has the ca­ble TV busi­ness changed over the years?

The in­dus­try started in the 1970s as a mo­nop­oly. Not sur­pris­ingly, its ap­proach to cus­tomer ser­vice re­flected that. For years, cus­tomers have de­spised their ca­ble com­pany — and with good rea­son.

Over the past 10 years, sev­eral com­pa­nies such as Grande Com­mu­ni­ca­tions were cre­ated to pro­vide con­sumers more value, flex­i­bil­ity and choices than ever were avail­able. With new en­trants such as Grande, the com­pet­i­tive bar has been raised for all com­pa­nies. We suc­ceed be­cause we de­liver on our prom­ises — and cus­tomers wouldn’t be with us if we didn’t. The fact that well over 95 per­cent of our cus­tomers we hear from would rec­om­mend us to friends and neigh­bors tells me we have really changed the out­dated

in­dus­try norms. What changes do you think are ahead for the in­dus­try?

The en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try has been, and will con­tinue to, mi­grate to more choices both in terms of de­liv­ery and con­tent. We have in­vested mil­lions in tech­nol­ogy at Grande to en­sure we of­fer best-in-class HD, Video on De­mand and on­line de­liv­ery of the best video pro­gram­ming in the in­dus­try. We have also part­nered with TiVo to of­fer the most pow­er­ful way to nav­i­gate con­tent across all plat­forms to find what cus­tomers want and al­low them to view them at any time on any de­vice. As the pro­gram­ming in­dus­try evolves to al­low more flex­i­bil­ity, such as a la carte of­fer­ings, nav­i­ga­tion and de­liv­ery will be ab­so­lute ta­ble stakes, which is why we have in­vested ahead of that curve. How has Grande been able to be suc­cess­ful against big-name ca­ble providers such as Time Warner?

We have suc­ceeded be­cause we con­stantly dif­fer­en­ti­ate our­selves from the com­pe­ti­tion and de­liver on our prom­ises. As a lo­cal com­pany fo­cused only on Texas, we un­der­stand what our mar­kets are about and who our cus­tomers are. We strive to make sure that any in­ter­ac­tion a cus­tomer has with us is a pos­i­tive one and that we have gone above and be­yond to take care of any is­sues as quickly as pos­si­ble. I think Grande cus­tomers really ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing ser­viced by a provider who is nim­ble enough to really care about their busi­ness while hav­ing am­ple re­sources to of­fer the best tech­nolo­gies and ser­vices. Which mar­kets are strong­est for Grande?

We op­er­ate across six dif­fer­ent mar­kets in Texas — roughly half are the large ur­ban cities such as Austin and San An­to­nio and half are mid-sized sized cities such as Waco and Cor­pus Christi. We do ex­tremely well in the mid-sized cities, where we ser­vice the en­tire area and Grande is known as a lo­cal em­ployer and a big part of the com­mu­nity, and be­cause of this we typ­i­cally have a larger mar­ket share than any other provider.

In the larger cities such as Austin … the big­gest draw­back we hear is that cus­tomers are dis­ap­pointed that they can­not get our ser­vice in their neigh­bor­hood. We are do­ing our best to ex­pand to cover more of the mar­ket. What new prod­ucts have been rolled out re­cently or are cur­rently in the works?

Over the past cou­ple of years, we have made huge up­grades to all our prod­ucts, but I am es­pe­cially proud of our high-speed In­ter­net ser­vice. Last year, we launched the fastest In­ter­net in town with speeds that are more than twice that of the com­pe­ti­tion at 110 megabits per sec­ond.

This sum­mer we rolled out “Get It All” bun­dles that com­bine our In­ter­net ser­vice with our TiVo ser­vice. And in Novem­ber, we launched TiVo Stream, which en­ables our TiVo users to view live TV or their recorded pro­grams on mo­bile de­vices, such as an iPad or iPhone. Time mag­a­zine in­cluded TiVo Stream on its list of what’s hot for the hol­i­days. Is Grande look­ing to ex­pand its net­work? If so, where?

We have be­gun build­ing again and over the past two years in­creased our net­work area com­pa­ny­wide by over 15 per­cent. Go­ing for­ward, we are tar­get­ing more ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion in the Austin mar­ket across many neigh­bor­hoods and large apart­ment com­plexes. We are look­ing to round out our cov­er­age of the core Austin down­town ar­eas and con­tinue to build to large of­fice parks to ex­pand our large and grow­ing busi­ness cus­tomer base. Grande was among the first ca­ble providers to add the Longhorn Net­work. Has LHN helped boost the num­ber of sub­scribers?

LHN has been a ter­rific part­ner for us and ex­tremely well re­ceived by cus­tomers. This year has seen our strong­est growth in years for cus­tomer gains – and LHN has cer­tainly been a ma­jor part in fu­el­ing that growth. I’m really proud we were the first op­er­a­tor to carry LHN and, even now, we are the only one to of­fer LHN to bars and restau­rants. The Univer­sity of Texas has a hugely loyal fan base and we want to of­fer them as much ac­cess as pos­si­ble.

Pres­i­dent Matt Murphy: We ‘de­liver on our prom­ises.’

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